Did you ever think that if you just won the Powerball lottery, life would be perfect? At the beginning of Sand Castles, Jim Hodene wins millions, and he and his wife Wendy are set for life. Well, they would be if this were a one-sentence story, but then someone sees Jim’s picture in the paper and things begin to happen. Sand Castles is a hard one to classify. It’s a little bit mystery, part women’s fiction, a pinch of romance and a heaping helping of soap opera. Call it a Lifetime cable channel book.
When Jim Hodene wins it big in the lottery, he wants a complete lifestyle makeover: new house, new car, new boat, no more boring job. Wendy Hodene is not so sure. She loves the house that once belonged to her grandparents and doesn’t want to leave it. She does agree, though, that it’s too small, so they plan an expansion that will add more rooms and allow for more luxuries.
When Jim’s picture shows up in the paper, they naturally get lots of calls from distant and forgotten relatives. Zina Hayward also sees the picture and recognizes Jim as her long-lost husband Jimmy (who walked out on her when she was pregnant years ago). Her brother Zack isn’t so sure Jim is his sister’s husband, but he gets a job with the carpentry crew working on the Hodene home and begins to sleuth.
Want a one sentence review? “Interesting plot, forgettable characters.”
It’s apparent from the very beginning that Jim is guilty as sin. The questions are why did he do it, and when is he going to be found out. Jim is not an eeevil villain, he’s a good father and not a bad husband, and as the truth slowly comes to light, he is shown as a basically weak man, maybe as much sinned against as a sinner. I was pleased that he wasn’t the stereotypical foaming at the mouth villain, but he just wasn’t very interesting.
Wendy Hodene wasn’t very interesting either. She is basically a nice lady, who right from the start is determined that great wealth is not going to change her. And it doesn’t. She keeps her old car, and she is the one who wants to keep her old house. She and Jim have had a pretty good marriage – she had fallen in love with him almost instantly – but the marriage is beginning to go stale and she isn’t very happy with the changes wealth has wrought in him.
Zack is supposed to be the hero, but I did not like him. He’s a loner who is devoted to his sister Zina, a fragile, delicate woman. Zack has always been a basic love ’em and leave ’em kind of guy who scoffs at life-long fidelity. He plans to blackmail Jim, but in the course of the book, he falls in love with Wendy. Why? I have no idea. Sure, she’s nice, and she makes the construction crew lemonade but other than being nice, she had no personality. And Zack’s personality was unpleasant until close to the end.
Wendy’s family had some interesting characters in it, especially her feckless but loveable younger brother David. They are introduced and then dropped. Pity, David had more personality than Wendy or Zack.
Sand Castles is smoothly written and I zipped right along through it, but I was never tempted to stop and re-read any passages. It simply did not engage me, nor did I bond with the characters. Maybe another reader will have better luck with it than I did, but I read it, I reviewed it, and now I’ll forget it.